Phife Dawg, co-founder of A Tribe Called Quest, has died. He was 45 years old.
According to Rolling Stone, the rapper born Malik Taylor had been suffering from a number of health issues, including Type 1 diabetes, and had received a kidney transplant in 2008. However, his exact cause of death is unconfirmed at this time.
Update – Wednesday, March 23rd at 11:45 a.m. CT: A statement issued by his family confirms Phife died from complications of diabetes.
In 1985, Phife Dawg and childhood friend Q-Tip formed A Tribe Called Quest alongside Jarobi and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. The group quickly built a dedicated following through their wit, socially conscious lyrics, and genre-bending music that combined elements of jazz music with obscure sampling. Their sophomore album, 1991’s The Low End Theory, and follow-up, 1993’s Midnight Marauders, rank among hip-hop’s all-time greatest releases, and inspired an entire generation of hip-hop.
Following their initial 13-year run, A Tribe Called Quest broke up in 1998. They reunited eight years later, and performed a number of gigs in the subsequent years.
Update – Wednesday, March 23rd at 11:45 a.m. CT: In a heartfelt statement released Wednesday evening, the surviving members of A Tribe Called Quest paid tribute to their fallen bandmate. They write, “His music and what he’s contributed is seismic and hard to measure. He’s affected us as much as he’s affected all of you. We’re inspired by his daily joy and courage. He wasn’t in pain. He was happy.”
Read their full statement:
Our hearts are heavy. We are devastated. This is something we weren’t prepared for although we all know that life is fleeting. It was no secret about his health and his fight. But the fight for his joy and happiness gave him everything he needed. The fight to keep his family happy, his soul happy and those around him happy, gave him complete and unadulterated joy… until he heeded his fathers call.
We love his family his mother, his father, his son, his wife, his nieces, his family here in New York, Atlanta, California and Trinidad.
Thank you for the outpouring of prayers and support from the fans, fellow artists, music outlets, blogs, radio stations, DJ’s, social media and the music community at large. This too is part of his joy and means a lot to him. His family is overwhelmed by the support, well wishes and are thankful. His music and what he’s contributed is seismic and hard to measure. He’s affected us as much as he’s affected all of you. We’re inspired by his daily joy and courage. He wasn’t in pain. He was happy.
We take comfort in knowing he will be beside his grandmother.
Listen to A Tribe Called Quest’s greatest songs and see tributes from fellow hip-hop luminaries below.
Kendrick Lamar’s tribute